UTEP Steamrolls Sul Ross State, 111-76

Kareem Cooper

Kareem Cooper

Nov. 8, 2008

Photos by Ivan Pierre Aguirre 

Randy Culpepper scored 17 points to go along with seven assists, and the UTEP basketball team opened its 2008-09 season in style with a 111-76 romp of Sul Ross State in an exhibition game at the Don Haskins Center Saturday evening.


Eleven of Culpepper’s points came in the first half, allowing the Miners to enjoy a comfortable 51-32 lead at the break. He had plenty of help, though, with Stefon Jackson (15 points), Arnett Moultrie (15 points, six boards)  Kareem Cooper (12 points, six boards), Jason Jones (12 points, four rebounds), all reaching double figures. Tavaris Watts pulled down a game-high nine rebounds while Julyan Stone matched Culpepper’s assist total.


Every player who appeared in the game scored, with an unselfish approach fueling the offensive outburst. UTEP racked up 30 assists, consistently making the extra pass throughout the night.


“Tonight was a good start,” head coach Tony Barbee said. “I was happy to get a lot of guys into the game. We were a bit weary of going against each other and practice so it was good to go against someone else. I feel that we are taking positive steps in a positive direction.


“The good thing about our team, as we showed tonight, is that we have balance and depth,” Barbee said. “I’m excited for the guys and was glad to see the good sized crowd.”


UTEP dominated every facet of the contest, shooting 53.8 percent from the floor compared to 32.2 by Sul Ross. The Miners registered 60 points in the paint (only 20 by the Lobos) and won the battle of the boards to the tune of 55-33.


UTEP’s pressure defense played a large role in the paltry shooting effort by the Lobos. Additionally, the approach forced Sul Ross into 20 turnovers which were converted into 21 points. Were it not for 31 free throws by the Lobos, the margin of victory for the Orange and Blue could have been much greater.


Things were close early on, with the two squads trading buckets in the opening minutes before the Miners’ up-tempo style of play and tight marking started to overwhelm the Sul Ross.


UTEP went on a 10-2 run over a span of five-plus minutes, turning an 8-8 tie into a 20-12 advantage with 12:37 remaining. The Lobos countered with a 5-0 run to slice into the Miners’ edge, but the Miners quickly regained control courtesy of an 8-2 stretch. Culpepper capped the spurt by finishing a nifty drive with a reverse lay up, affording UTEP its first double-digit edge of the contest (28-17) with 8:30 left in the stanza.


Sul Ross responded with a strong sequence of its own, cutting the deficit to seven (28-21) after a triple from Abraham Ely. Ely, who finished with a game-high 19 points, was one of three players to reach double digits for the Lobos.


The effort allowed them to hang around heading into the waning minutes of the period (36-26), but UTEP elevated its intensity to close out the half in style.


The brunt of the work was over two-and-a half minutes, with UTEP utilizing an 11-1 run Back-to-back dunks from Culpepper and Cooper were followed by a long triple from Watts, bringing the more than 6,000 fans to their feet and affording the Miners  a 20-point lead (47-26) with 1:46 left in the period.


The Lobos finally halted the stretch with a dunk from Ely, but the Miners went into the locker room with the momentum thanks to solid half-court execution on their final possession. Moultrie, a Highly-touted freshman,  rattled in a lay-up off a tricky back door cut to send the Miners into the locker room armed with the aforementioned commanding lead.


UTEP was on cruise control the second half, building upon the 19-point halftime advantage with a balanced attack. Whether it was drives to the bucket or knocking down long triples, the Lobos simply had no answer.


The Miners’ edge surpassed the 30-point threshold for the first time on the night (76-46) with 12:12 left, following a free throw from freshman Blaise Ffrench.


The Lobos would get no closer than 25 (82-57) down the stretch, with the Miners coasting to the win.


UTEP will tip off its campaign in earnest by squaring off against Texas Southern at 8:05 p.m. on Friday at “The Don.” The game is a part of a double header, with all fans who purchase a ticket receiving free admission to the UTEP women’s basketball team season opener against Kansas State at 5:30 p.m.




UTEP Athletics